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A dancer's trace II

Thesis Project

Jan-March 2020

Three months

Design brief

The goal of this project is to translate the intricate movements in the Indian classical dance of Kathak into abstract and expressive visualizations using non-traditional methods of capturing movement. Indian classical dance performances have traditionally been used to communicate spiritual ideas, stories, and values dating as far back as 400BCE. These performances are a combination of facial expressions, intricate and well-structured movements, compelling narratives as well as accompanying musicals to form a unique experience for the audience. Kathak, originating from Northern India, is characterized by its rhythmic footwork in tandem with graceful upper body movements.

Kathak is traditionally is a solo dance performance where the dancer wears bells around their ankles while they dance accompanied by traditional music. Even though the audiences in a live Kathak performance experience the composition, the complex physical movements of feet and arms are often intermingled and difficult to isolate. Dancers have thus relied on fragmented notational renderings as a means to preserve these subtle bodily movements. Nevertheless, Kathak dancers leave traces of their performances in the environment after they leave. Capturing these traces encourages dance enthusiasts and curious audiences to take a more intimate look at the complex movements in Indian classical dance performances, especially Kathak.

For the purpose of this thesis, I have used a sample choreography by Guru Pali Chandra called "Paran judi Aamad". The detailed bols and choreography for this composition can be found in her online Kathak curriculum at Learn Kathak Online


'Bol' or verbal notations for the 'Paran judi Aamad'. The bol are in two distinct parts – the Paran and the Aamad.


In this experiment, I used light painting and tracing to visualize movements in the same choreography. I used techniques in photography and videography to track dance movements emitting from light sources attached to the body. I wore different colored LED light sources on my wrists (green color for right wrist and yellow color for left wrist) and ankles (green color for right ankle and yellow color for left ankle). The dance movements were captured in a video recording studio at Northeastern University, Boston, MA. The recording room was first set up to block all the external light and then turned into a dark room.


In addition to the movement, I also captured the sound of the choreography – the sound of the ghungroos, bols, and the sounds of the slapping of the foot. The sound was recorded in the audio recording room of Northeastern University. The setup for this included three microphones placed on the floor, with one in front and two on both sides of the body.


1.LED bands for the ankles and 2.hands 3.Camera setup 4.Ribbon microphones to capture ambient sound 5.Diaphragm condenser microphone for capturing the sound of the ghungroo and foot tapping


Light traces for the whole composition and the parts of the 'Paran and Aamad'.


Light traces for the parts of the choreography.

Animated video trace of 'Paran judi Aamad'.


Visual explorations of the light traces. 

Design skills:

Long exposure photography, Video/Photo editing 

Tools used:

Canon 5D, Adobe After Effects​, Adobe Premiere Pro

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